Read the original article here
There are times in life when we contemplate the mark we might leave behind in this world. If we’re honest with ourselves, we know that whatever it is will be as fleeting as tracks in fresh powder. We may turn back to catch a glimpse of those perfect turns, obscured by the grey lightness of snow falling, and know that there, there is the proof, the evidence, the legacy of a moment when all forces in our personal universe converged, and we truly were where we were suppose to be. As travelers through the tall hills of this world, it is something that we have the chance, the luck, to experience.
Doug Coombs knew this better than almost anyone. It was what made him the great mountain guide he was. His dedication and enthusiasm for taking people into the wild was shaped by his years in Jackson, pushing the boundaries with the Jackson Hole Air Force, an underground group of skiers that pioneered much of backcountry skiing around Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. He was a humble two time winner of the World Extreme Skiing Championships, held near Valdez Alaska, and he used this experience to start Valdez Heli Ski Guides with his wife Emily in the early 90s. As pioneers of heli skiing on Thompson Pass, they made the Chugach Mountains a must-do for generations of skiers. Doug’s early TGR segments filmed there are still relevant and progressive, and his easy, fluid style ushered in the next era of big mountain skiing. Continuing to advance with the sport, Doug and Emily took their guide business to the Alps, where they exalted in the culture and terrain surrounding them. Through all that, Doug kept Jackson close to his heart and spent much of the year there, guiding in the Tetons for Exum when he could. He understood that many people did not or could not have the freedom, skills, courage to embark on these types journeys alone. Many skiers of many stripes will tell you that Doug was with them when they had the best day, run, turn of their life. It would be easy to say that this stopped when Doug lost his life, that he only lives on in these friends, clients, and strangers. It would be easy, if it were true.
By introducing the opportunity for at-risk and lower income youth to ski and explore the mountains they live in, The Doug Coombs Foundation, started by his wife Emily, has become an important part of creating a stronger and more diverse mountain community in Jackson. Here, in one of the best places in the world to be a skier, it is easy to take for granted the culture that surrounds and sustains it. How could you live here and not ski, not hike up the pass before work, not wait in the Tram line for hours? Emily, like Doug, embraced this mountain town and though traveled the world, always returned to Jackson for a reason. It is where David, their son, has been raised and no doubt will leave his own mark. Her true dedication and affection for the area drives her belief that every kid should have the chance to experience the adventures and lifestyle offered by the Tetons.
She knows not every family has the money or time to get out skiing. Some come from places that never see snow. This makes them no less able to appreciate the fun and community that the sport has and, if given the opportunity, no less able to excel at it. Through the Foundation and its many generous sponsors and volunteers, Emily, like Doug, guides people into the mountains and empowers them to experience and achieve something they may have thought unattainable. And here, in that, is a legacy. A legacy of a great man, a warm spirit, who took his talent and unselfishly used it to make others better. It lives in the first turns of a kid who had never skied, not in a list of first descents or plaques and accolades. It is in making the Valley a more inclusive place and letting the next generation grow up together in mountains, separated not by money or race. Skiing is a beautiful and abstract sport, life, and it will only continue if organizations like the Doug Coombs Foundation keep open arms for any kid who might want to try it.
To learn more about the Doug Coombs Foundation, visit coombsfoundation.org
Buy Tracking The Wild Coomba here.